Cinnamon is one of the oldest known spices and has quite the medical background too. It’s mentioned in the Bible and ancient Chinese texts. Ancient Egypt used it in medicine, to flavor beverages, and as embalming agent. It became so highly treasured in ancient Rome and Egypt that it often outstripped gold in value. Cinnamon’s popularity then continued, becoming one of the most relied upon spices in Medieval Europe. So, since the beginning of recorded medical history, cinnamon has found a place among the greats. Modern science didn’t discover the benefits of cinnamon, but it is providing the proof.
Cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil in cinnamon, inhibits the release of inflammatory fatty acids. It has been well-researched for its effects on blood platelets. Platelets are the blood cells that clump together to form scabs and stop bleeding under normal circumstances, but can also contribute to dangerous blood clots when not functioning properly. Cinnamaldehyde’s anti-inflammatory effects help prevent excessive clumping.
Cinnamon is being studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria and fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast, Candida. In laboratory tests, growth of yeasts that were resistant to the commonly used anti-fungal medications was often stopped by cinnamon extracts. Cinnamon’s antimicrobial properties are so effective that recent research demonstrates it can be used as an alternative to traditional food preservatives.
Blood Sugar Control
Cinnamon may significantly help people with type 2 diabetes by improving their ability to respond to insulin, normalizing blood sugar levels. Both test tube and animal studies show that compounds in cinnamon not only stimulate insulin receptors, but also inhibit an enzyme that inactivates them, significantly increasing cells’ ability to use glucose.
Just smelling the wonderful odor of this sweet spice boosts brain activity. Research by the Association for Chemoreception Sciences found that chewing cinnamon flavored gum or merely being exposed to the scent of cinnamon enhanced cognitive processing. Specifically, cinnamon improved tasks related to attention processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor speed.
Cinnamon is an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber, iron, and calcium. The combination of calcium and fiber in cinnamon can be helpful in binding bile salts and removing them from the body. By removing bile, fiber helps prevent damage that certain bile salts can cause to colon cells, reducing the risk of colon cancer. For sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome, the fiber in cinnamon may also provide relief from constipation or diarrhea.
When bile is removed by fiber, the body must break down cholesterol in order to make new bile. This process may aid in lowering cholesterol levels, which can be helpful in preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease.
So, this Fall, when you smell the warm waft of cinnamon carried on the air or taste it on your tongue, take a small moment to enjoy it fully and pay some respect to this ancient spice. You are not alone. Cinnamon has been delighting and benefiting the world since time unknown. Here’s to you, Cinnamon, a versatile spice that flawlessly combines medical utility with palatability.
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